The Very Best: White and Yellow Cakes

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I’m a cake connoisseur.

Really, I am.

Ask anyone.

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I can detect the subtlest of differences in flavor, the openness of the crumb, even the order wet and dry ingredients were mixed.

When I first got into baking, I approached it as I would any worldly venture: blindly and dangerously.

I stayed up late scanning recipes, inspected ratios of flour to sugar to butter to more butter to butter butter butter. Baking involves butter, I found.

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I baked sponge cake after pound cake after genoise cake after angel food, because I wanted to figure out the gentle transformation a sweet slipped through when the wet and the dry got jumbled. When the baking powder and baking soda did the nasty. Why my eggs were more willing to rise at room temperature. And finally, why (please Lord, WHY?!!!) cake didn’t frost its own damn self?

Still waiting on the last one.

True to my nature, I chose to explore baking in a wild fury. I came at her from every angle, dissected the process in every tender way, read about every nuance, and most tellingly, I taste tested every last crumb. Then I taste tested again. And just as I finished taste testing, I repeated twice more.

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And what I’ve learned from all of it, is that I love dessert*.

*I also make obvious statements at my own discretion.

A real homemade slice of something sweet. A big and round bakery layer cake, heavy on the frosting. The way fork tines slip through cheesecake like a knife through softened butter.

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Just talking about sweets now, my mouth waters; my imagination flashes to gooey and creamy and chewy and melting scoops of ice cream. Anything that would melt it so slowly. My eyes glaze over.

So when you ask me my favorite cake flavor, you’re really asking a lot of me. (Pretend to be interested here)

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I’ll just come out with it.

Ready?

Vanilla.

But not just reg’lar ole ‘nilla.

No.

Fluffy whitevanilla cake.

Not to be confused with yellowvanilla cake.

The thing is, there’s such a gentle texture, a light and lovely subtlety between white and yellow cake. But once your tongue meets this kind of sweet cream distinction, you’ll never be able to forget.

Both are rounded and rich in a smooth, creamy way. They should be moist. Soft and tender. Scented like a vanilla bean whipped with butter.

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Because I love you, I’m sharing my notes on each: yellow and white cakes. The similarities, the differences, the bestrecipes I’ve adapted for each.

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Let’s begin with white cake. It’s dainty, almost unbearably light, so tender that it crumbles at your lips. The texture is fluffy, puffed and cloud-like, whipped only with egg whites. The flavor is gentle, sweet and vanilla-scented. The crumb is small and tight, fine like velvet. This is the kind of cake you’d have at your wedding. It’s fragile, unforgettable and vulnerable. She pairs well with whipped white frosting.

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Now, yellow. Yeller, as I call her. She’s just as tender, but perhaps sturdier than her ethereal white sister. Pale and sunny-hued with rich, egg custard flavor. Her crumb is bigger, more open and airy, moister. She tastes smooth and intense like all butter pound cake. Silkier because of her beaten yeller’ yolks. This is the kind of cake that holds up under rich chocolate frosting. She shines vanilla even without a bold topping.

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Perfect White Cupcakes

(adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

makes 12

…..

1 cup cake flour

½ cup whole milk, at room temperature

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

1teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened but still cool

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12-cup standard size cupcake tin with paper liners. Spritz each with nonstick cooking spray.

Lightly whisk milk, egg whites, and vanilla extract in large glass measuring cup.

Mix cake flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a stand electric mixer and add butter; beating at low speed until mixture resembles moist crumbs, with no large clumps of flour.

Add 3/4 of the milk mixture to the crumbs and beat at medium speed (or high speed if using handheld mixer) for 1 1/2 minutes. Add remaining milk mixture and beat 30 seconds more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for 20 seconds longer at low speed.

Evenly distribute the batter in the cupcake tin. Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the cupcakes from the pan carefully and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

………………………………

Perfect Yellow Cupcakes

(adapted from Cooks Illustrated)

makes 12

1 ½ cups sll-purpose flour

¾ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

½ cup sour cream

2 large eggs , room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 12 cup standard sized cupcake tin with paper liners and spritz lightly with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of a standing electric mixer. Add butter, sour cream, eggs, and vanilla. Beat at medium speed until smooth and satiny, about 30 seconds. Scrape down sides of bowl with rubber spatula and mix by hand until smooth and no clumps of flour are visible.

Evenly divide the batter among the cups in your prepared pan. Bake until cupcake tops are pale gold and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 20 to 22 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the pan carefully and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Comments

    • Amy says

      Can’t wait to try the white cake recipe. Do you think it would work to form into cake pops? Also, I only currently have buttermilk, do you think that would work. Thanks!

  1. Johnny says

    Wow, before you where finished I could smell them baking and cooling on the rack! Without actually biting into one I can taste them by just the way you describe them. I’ve always loved (did I say Loved),I mean love chocolate, couldn’t find any use for vanila. You just made my mouth water for vanila, I can’t believe it! :)

  2. says

    Ah I obviously love dessert, too, but don’t think I have a favorite cake… maybe chocolate? I like too many desserts and go through too many phases to decide! Guess I’ll have to try both your white AND yellow cake recipes asap:-)

  3. says

    I adore white cake! It’s one of my favorites as well. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. It’s not easy finding a tried and true recipe to go with, so I’m excited that you have one right here. Especially since my sister and I are planning a cupcake making party for this Sunday. 😀

  4. says

    Eggs rise better at room temperature?

    I feel as if a shooting star should go across the room to the theme of “the more you knooooowwww….”

    I had no idea!

    Yellow cake is more my thing- for the reason you listed of being a little more dense…. mmmm

  5. says

    Its nice to know I’m not the only one who can describe the nuances of baked goods with such zeal. I’m right there with you. ALthough my favorite is chocolate, old fashioned-style. Yum.

  6. says

    I am a devout follower of chocolate cake, but I found myself reading this post simply because I love your writing so much. And I believe you may have convinced me to bake some white cupcakes in the near future. That is an impressive feat, my friend!

  7. says

    totally bookmarking this. i actually need to make cupcakes this weekend…for a 1 yr old and his belated bday celebration. any idea which would go over better? or do you have a foolproof chocolate cupcake recipe? :)

  8. says

    I am such not a baker…I wish I was. I am never precise enough and my baked good always turn out wrong. Either over or under cooked…never right!

  9. says

    I love learning tips and the science that goes into baking. There is so much more measuring and precision with baking than cooking. My favorite cake combo is yellow with chocolate frosting, just can’t go wrong with that guy!

  10. says

    I seriously wish you lived near me (or I near you!) because I feel like we would be the best of friends.

    I cannot wait to make these… maybe my fiance will want some fluffy cupcakes for his 26th birthday? :) do you have a recipe for an equally delicious frosting?

  11. says

    Yummy! My favorite cupcakes/cake is Confetti! I don’t know if you can make those “homemade” but out of the box it is so good – esp the confettie icing you can buy…sigh. I’m actually more of a pie person, but I am with you on the Vanilla cake! For now I am existing on raw cocao macaroons.

  12. says

    My co-worker was JUST asking me for a good yellow cake recipe! I’m not particularly a baker, so I was having troubles. I should have known to just direct him here 😉

  13. says

    great post! i love it! i was actually wondering what could the difference have been between the 2, what makes one white over yellow. DUH! Of course, it had to be the eggs. How silly could i be? Since i’m on the healthier side and my tummy is my biggest enemy, i’m most definitely going to make the white cupcakes and link back to you! YOu are awesome to do this comparison and soooooooooo pretty!!! A very angelic face, ok, i’m not weird for saying that, right? I’m married. :-)

  14. Julia says

    The white cupcakes are the best I’ve made! I top them with whipped frosting and strawberries. I’m so in love with your site, Andrea, none of your recipes have failed me! Thanks for all you do!

  15. Megan S. says

    I’ve been saving this recipe for a special occasion and my baby girl turns 1 this weekend so I get to make these! Can’t wait!

  16. Haley says

    These tasted amazing. I made both for dinner last night. Completely delicious. I added mini M&M’s to some of the yellow cake cupcakes and they were awe.some.

  17. LIsa Cohn says

    The yellow cake came out dry — I’ll try the white next. the batter was thick — not cakelike — and I re-read to make sure I wasn’t missing any ingredients. Are we supposed to use “cake flour” or double sift or something? I almost added another egg or some milk because the consistency was off. That said — I had to test the cupcakes before serving. It’s buttery — so that’s the saving grace, and I’m serving them tonight anyway, but I won’t be using the “yeller” recipe again.

  18. Reina says

    I love how u compared the two!! I am so glad I came across
    This recipe, I’ve tried others and nothing compares
    To your vanilla white cupcakes!! I whipped up a batch of
    These cupcakes and they were amazing, but when I tried to make a
    Cake for my sons birthday it failed! I doubled the recipe and
    It was chewy and not as fluffy as the cupcakes.
    What do you think went wrong? Should I have used less
    Egg whites in the doubled recipe? Thanks

  19. Alison says

    This is also perfect as a small cake. I made 2 layers changing one layer in to a chocolate layer. I used this recipe and took out 2 tablespoons of flour and added about 2-4 tablespoons (can’t remember exactly what I did)I think the trick must be the whole milk. This is the first recipe that’s turned out great that calls for this ingredient. I got several compliments on my cake for our VBS program tonight. I now have a great “base cake” I suppose I have heard it called. Thanks for all the hard work at creating this recipe. I wish I knew how to form recipes. I had 2 small pieces left.

  20. Janine says

    I just wanted to tell you that white cake is my favourite cake also, and I have never found the perfect homemade recipe so I must always rely on store-bought white cakes. My birthday just passed last week and when my mom asked me what kind of cake I wanted, I told her white of course, and gave her your recipe to try.

    Lo and behold, she tried it and it was PERFECTION. Seriously, perfect perfect perfect. We doubled the recipe to make a THREE layer cake with light and fluffy marshmallow-y vanilla icing, and it was amazing.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    Here’s something you may be interested in as a fellow Fluff/marshmallow fan: when you make these white cakes into cupcakes, just before they are finished, place a large marshmallow on the top of each cupcake and place back in the oven for a minute or two. The marshmallow will turn golden and melt over the top of the cupcake. *drool*

  21. Marisa says

    Looks great! What temperature/time would you recommend to make the white cake as an actual cake, and not individual cupcakes

  22. Marisa says

    Looks great! What temperature/time would you recommend to make the white cake as an actual cake, and not individual cupcakes?

  23. Michelle says

    I came across your recipe while searching for a vanilla cupcake recipe for my husband’s birthday. I made the yellow batter this evening, and was skeptical that the mixing method (basically, dump it in and mix it up) would produce a light texture. THESE ARE FANTASTIC!!! Extremely moist, and have a delicate crumb. It will be my go-to recipe from now on for vanilla cupcakes. THANK YOU very much!!

    I live at just over 5000 feet elevation, so I made just a couple minor adjustments (only for altitude, not taste). I added a TB each of butter and sour cream, and decreased the baking powder to 1 3/4 tsp instead of 2. I also increased the baking temperature to 375, and baked for 18 minutes. Up here, things can raise too quickly, then fall, so decreasing the leavening and increasing temp can help prevent that.

    Thank you so much again! These turned out so well that I look forward to perusing your other offerings.

  24. Tamara says

    The white cupcakes are PERFECT, just absolutely perfect. Exactly how I wanted the cake to be, delicate, light, moist, and tasty! I was seriously skeptical about the process ( mixing flour with butter) but it must be the magic trick because these are the best. Thanks SOOO much!!

  25. yolanda says

    i made the yellow cake cupcakes last night to see how they would taste because i’m looking for a perfect yellow cake for my boyfriend’s birthday. needless to say, i’m definitely in love. i’m going to make the vanilla cake soon! my only concern was that my batter was pretty thick, but i don’t think it mattered because the yellow cake was delicious!

  26. Jen says

    I have been testing out every yellow cake recipe I have come across trying to find my go-to recipe. I had thought I found one I loved…until I came across this post, so I decided to give one more recipe a try, and it was perfect! The first time I made it, I made cupcakes and they got great reviews. Then I needed to make 2 birthday cakes so I made a yellow cake and white cake using these recipes and everyone loved them!! Thanking you so much for posting these, and ending my search for the perfect yellow cake. :)

  27. Yadira Taboada-Palacios says

    Andie, what would be the recipe if one were attempting to bake a cake instead of cupcakes? Thanks- i cant wait to bake!

    • Linda biillingsley says

      Can you give me the recipe. For a six and eight inch layer cake for the white and yellow cake please?

  28. Joy says

    Um, quick question. Do you mean All purpose flour or Self rising flour? I wanna try this recipe for a rainbow cake and so far yours is the only one that seems reasonable. Martha suggested 9 eggs. I don’t have nine eggs to waste on one freaking cake.

    • admin says

      Hi Joy! No, I don’t use self-rising flour in either recipe. For the white cake, I use cake flour- which just has a fine, lighter texture than all-purpose flour. And then for the yellow cake, I use all-purpose regular flour.

      Andie

  29. Jessica says

    Hi Andie, Have you tried clear vanilla extract for the white cake? I prefer pure extract over imitation but am curious if the clear would make the cake even more white. Thank you for you insight. ~Jessica

    • admin says

      Hey Jessica,
      Nope I haven’t tried it! But you know, I think it could be great. I’ve seen it available in craft stores in the baking/cake decorating sections and I’ve always wondered if it would taste artificial or just the same as the true extract. Let me know if you do decide to try it!
      Andie

    • admin says

      Hey Kim,

      Unfortunately, no, neither of these recipes will work with an alternate flour than the one listed in the ingredients. Unlike other recipes where substitutions are possible, these are so delicate that I think the texture would really be ruined by the whole wheat/pastry/white whole wheat.

      Good question, though!

      Andie

  30. mary says

    I used this recipe all excited to be trying something new for myself for me and my kids on my birthday. They completely bombed, taste bitter. I tried using egg replacer because i don’t eat eggs (or meat) and it is not a good subsitute. learn something new every day. back to the drawing board.

    • mary says

      No reflection on your recipe of course. i just wouldn’t recommend it to people who don’t use eggs, or use the substitute i used.

      • admin says

        Oh no, sorry to hear it, Mary :(

        I don’t really have any experience with egg replacers, but if I ever come up with a recipe that omits the egg, I’ll let you know!

        Andie

  31. Sharlene Conley says

    Will this recipe work for 8in round cake pans? I’m dying to make this but i want to make sure it will work for a regular cake!

    • admin says

      Hey Sharlene,

      Yes, it will work! Just be sure to adjust the baking time a bit–the 8″ cakes will take a few minutes more.

      Andie

  32. Kay says

    Good morning! I LOVE your comparison pictures here. I am a lover of white cake. I love the softness and tightness of the crumb. I do not like that it generally results in a puny cupcake or that it becomes dry very quickly. Because of this I’m in search of a cake that has a bit more yolk to give it more volume but still maintains the same softness of the white. Oh…and not too much of an egg custard taste :-) Many I’ve tried in the past results in a cornbread& muffin taste/consistency. Is this true with this yellow cupcake?

    • admin says

      Hi Kay,

      It’s great to meet another person so interested in the fine details of good cake.
      I know what you mean about some yellow cake recipes yielding results that taste and feel like cornbread, but I can assure you that this yellow cake is not AT ALL like that. This yellow cake recipe, though thicker and less delicate than the white cake, is still quite soft. And while the crumb is bigger and looser, it’s still very small in comparison to the size of crumbly cornbread.

      I have a feeling you’d really like this recipe. But please do let me know how it goes if you decide to try it; I’d love to get your feedback!

      Andie

  33. Bonnie Arnold says

    I’ve made this white cake recipe many times. I love the flavor and texture, but it tends to stick to the cupcake liner. It’s frustrating when you peel the liner away and there isn’t any cupcake left! Your picture shows a perfect cupcake when peeled away from the liner. Any suggestions? Thanks!

    • Andie says

      Hey Bonnie!

      Hmm…I haven’t had as much of a sticking problem. Just to be sure: are you coating the paper liners with nonstick cooking spray before filling them?

      Andie

      • Bonnie Arnold says

        Yep! I should just try it again and really give those babies a good spraying. It’s my favorite cake batter to taste, honestly. And I have had good success with it as a layer cake. On a side note…I read some of your past blogs on weight loss and they are wonderful! Very inspirational. Some things that were very timely for me to hear, so thanks!

        • Andie says

          Gosh, this bums me out, Bonnie. I’m sorry that they’re sticking! Next time I make them, I’ll see how it goes, but I don’t remember having an issue? I am happy to hear that the flavor is there, though.

          And thank you for your kind words about my weight loss posts! They mean quite a bit, and hearing that others can relate just makes it worthwhile that I share, so really–I appreciate it more than I can fully express :)

          Andie

  34. katie says

    Great recipe! really enjoyed the comparison between yellow and white. I made the yellow and it came out initially not silky but thick so i added a little almond milk to loosen it up and they turned out great in the oven. I also ran the dry through a sieve (i was scared they would turn out like rocks cause this has happened to me more than a million times) i dont know if that helped but i did it just for safe measure.

  35. Keira says

    Made the yellow cake yesterday and were a hit! i put some lemon curd in the center aswell. Definitely the best yellow cake recipie though!!

  36. Michi says

    Hallo,

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. I made white cake cupcakes and they are spectacular, white, fine, fluffy. Gorgeous.

    Thanks so much!

  37. Alesia says

    I just made these. YUM! I was trying a couple recipes for my son’s birthday party next Saturday. While putting them on the cooling rack I dropped one and it went delicious side down onto the floor :( So…we ripped the top off. No wasting these. My son (turning 3 in a week) usually licks the frosting off and runs off. Without the frosting or yummy crispy top he ate that whole thing!
    Now to figure out how to level my stove so that they don’t bake looking like the tower of pisa!
    Thanks for the wonderful recipe.

  38. Linda billingsley says

    I just made the white cupcakes . They are light but some have sunken in. They seem very fragile. They do not look like in your picture!

  39. Sheila says

    Hi.. I wanna try your recipe, how do you double the white cupcake recipe? Im planning to make two dozens.. Thanx

  40. Rebecca says

    These look fantastic, thank you for comparing them so eloquently. I have one major gripe with finding a blog/website like yours – I really wish the weights/measurements were in Metric grams and millilitres!

    I live in the UK, and when I find a recipe I like that is in US Cup measurements I usually pass them over, which is a real shame… when I’ve used online conversion websites in the past there are some times that it all comes out a little inaccurate. As you know, baking is a science and for a perfect cake you need precision.

    Please, consider adding metric values. I imagine your fan base would swiftly multiply!

  41. says

    My cupcakes also do not look like yours, but I made a wedding cake and used this recipe and it is AMAZING!!! I’ve been baking for over 40yrs and have been looking high and low for a scratch white cake recipe that my daughter and I approve of, and this one is the Best, ever!!

    Thank you so very much for sharing !!
    Jan

  42. Mimi Randall says

    Every since I was a kid I have loved Bakery made white cakes because they were so light, fluffy, delicate, with tiny crumbs. Where as the home made cakes were a lot heavier and much larger crumbs. Totally different structure. Never knew or would have guessed that it was because you leave OUT the egg yolks! Wow….illuminating, thank-you so very much!
    I have also tried different recipies for butter cream frosting, but it always turns out a wasted effort. Can you PLEASE send me a simple yet elegant butter cream frosting recipe? Thank you again and God bless you. Mimi

    • says

      Hi May,

      I just looked up some online conversions of tablespoons to grams and it seems that a tablespoon of butter is about 14.18 grams, so 5 tablespoons would be about 70.9 grams.

      Hope this helps!
      Andie

  43. Brigitte says

    I made the white and the yellow cupcake and I did not care for them. The white one was to dry and the yellow tasted sour from the sour cream :(

  44. Tiffany says

    Hi,
    How would i adapt this for a cake? Would the same recipe work and adjust the cook time? I wanted to make a 6″ cake…

    Thanks!

  45. Andromeda Nguyen says

    I tried the white cupcake recipe and even posted it on instagram because I thought it was a success. However, my boyfriend thought it was a little dry. So, I tried it again with more butter. Failed. What can I do to add more moisture?

  46. Shane says

    I’m excited to try the white cake recipe. I tried one this weekend and the flavor was good but they didn’t bake up well – spread out and flat not domed on the top. I want to fill them with raspberry curd and top with raspberry buttercream.

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